June 26, 2014

Bipartisan Group of 14 Senators Calls for Senate Vote to Reform Wildfire Funding

Washington, D.C. – Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and 12 Senate cosponsors pressed Senate leadership to allow a full Senate vote on their bipartisan bill to fix the broken system for funding wildfire suppression.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D- Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., all 14 cosponsors of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2013 urged the Senate leaders to quickly bring the bill to the Senate Floor for a full vote or find another appropriate piece of legislation that would move the bill forward.

“This bill would end the dysfunctional and destructive approach towards funding wildfire fighting,” the senators wrote. “The current cycle of underfunding, and even raiding, programs used for critical forest restoration and wildfire prevention work  results in having to spend even greater amounts fighting ever larger and more severe wildfires.”

At the end of last year, Wyden and Crapo introduced the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (S. 1875) to reform federal wildfire policy, target more funding for fire prevention, and treat the largest wildfires as natural disasters by funding firefighting efforts from a similar disaster account that funds hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Currently, wildfire funding is budgeted using a 10-year average of the costs of wildfires. The actual costs of wildfire suppression efforts have exceeded the appropriated amount in 8 of the past 10 years. This year, the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior (DOI) estimated that they will spend about $470 million more than they have available to fight wildfires.

The president included the wildfire funding plan in his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal to Congress. The bill has widespread support, including endorsements from more than 200 organizations, such as the Western Governors’ Association, the Nature Conservancy and the National Rifle Association.

The bill’s cosponsors include: Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Mark Udall, D-Colo., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and John Walsh, D-Mont.

The letter is here.


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